Fact #1 – Jesus died and his body was placed in a cave tomb

Let me introduce you to the historical Jesus. Although it is sometimes fashionable to question whether he even existed, denial firmly remains a fringe and eccentric view amongst historians and scholars. The existence of a man who people called Christ is attested by a number of sources, including Christian writings from within 30-50 years of his life, (such as the writings of Paul[1] and the four gospels)[2], the Jewish historian Josephus writing about 40 years from his death, and the Roman historian Tacitus writing nearly 70 years after the life of Jesus.

“And when, upon the accusation of the principal men among us, Pilate had condemned him [Jesus] to a cross, those who had first come to love him did not cease” – Josephus, 94AD

“Consequently, to get rid of the report, Nero fastened the guilt and inflicted the most exquisite tortures on a class hated for their abomination, called Christians by the populace.  Christus, from whom the name had its origin, suffered the extreme penalty during the reign of Tiberius at the hands of one of our procurators, Pontius Pilatus” – Tacitus, 116AD

Indeed, they all agree on this important first benchmark: that Jesus both lived and was executed by crucifixion. This meets the criterion of multiple attestation, as historians would describe it, which simply means that more than one person has recorded the same detail independently of each other. If we don’t accept the evidence for Jesus as a historical figure, then to show some consistency we ought to question whether other figures of history ever existed as well. People like Alexander the Great and Boudicca the Celtic warrior queen should be subject to an erasure of history if we applied such a critical standard to the evidence for their existence and activities. Thankfully this is not the mainstream position amongst historians, even when considering the evidence for Jesus.

So, a man called Jesus lived a short life and was put to death by being crucified. In first century Jewish culture, bodies were placed in cave tombs, either carved out of rock or within natural crevices in the cliff face. A stone was placed over the entrance to the tomb[3], and there is no reason to doubt this was the case for Jesus as well – indeed, no less than four writers include that detail in their description of events. The tomb was sealed, guards were placed outside[4], and that was that. Well, that should have been the end of it, but it was really just the start.

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[1] Paul was one of the most prominent apostles who wrote many of the letters that are within the New Testament.

[2] Mark 15:42-47, 1 Corinthians 15:3-4

[3] Matthew 27:59-60

[4] Matthew 27:62-66

For more discussion about the multiple sources that demonstrate the life of Jesus and in particular the events of the death and resurrection of Jesus, check out episode 9 of the Bible Feed podcast, “Why are there 4 gospels?” and episode 21, “He is risen!”.